Eamonn Coghlan says Jerry Kiernan will be remembered as an Irish sporting icon following his sad passing aged 67.
The athletics community in Ireland was rocked by news of the Irish Olympian's death on Thursday.
Kiernan was a two-time winner of the Dublin Marathon and finished ninth in the men's marathon at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.
"I was completely devastated when I heard the news of Jerry’s passing," said fellow Olympian Coghlan when speaking to RTÉ athletics correspondent Greg Allen.
"It’s not something you expect to hear, that one of your great friends who you’ve known since 12 or 13… You just don’t expect him to pass away so soon, way before his time."
Kiernan’s abilities as an athlete were wide-ranging, from breaking the four-minute mile in 1976 to finishing ninth in Los Angeles, where at one point late in the race he joined the lead group of runners that also included eventual silver medallist John Treacy.
In the first of his two Dublin Marathon wins in 1982, Kiernan set off at close to world-record pace before coming to a dead halt at 18 miles. Somehow he finished the race, setting a time that stood as a Dublin Marathon record for 22 years.
"The death of Jerry Kiernan, Olympian, sports commentator and athletics coach will have been heard with sadness by all those in the sports community and those who enjoyed his voice in commentary. His achievements in 1984, and his enduring coaching legacy will be long remembered."— President of Ireland (@PresidentIRL) January 21, 2021
"Not only was he one of the great thinkers and philosophers, he had a wonderful way with the English language and of expressing himself," said Coghlan.
"I remember working with him during the Olympics and World Championships over the years and he’d use these great big English words. So much so that one of my friends in my athletics club asked if I’d do him a favour and ask Jerry to use simple words!
"He was such a great academic and a ferociously hard worker in athletics.
"He may not have had all the natural talent that I was fortunate enough to have, but Jerry really was a workhorse. So much so that he wanted to make the Olympic Games, and he did in 1984, surprising all of us.
"But not only did he surprise us by making the Olympics, he surprised us because he finished ninth in Los Angeles.
"He was a sub-four-minute miler as well. He was just one of the great guys in our sport who gave so much of himself beyond the sport of athletics."
Ciara Mageean also paid tribute to her coach, saying that he left a lasting footprint in her heart.
"I feel truly blessed and privileged to have been able to call him my coach and friend," said the Portaferry athlete on social media.
There will be a few people who walk through your life and leave lasting footprints in your heart. Jerry Kiernan was one of those people. I feel truly blessed and privileged to have been able to call him my coach and friend.— Ciara Mageean (@ciaramageean) January 21, 2021
Thank you Jerry, for everything. pic.twitter.com/FaxJPd27v0